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From Runner to Swimmer: A Triathlete’s Journey

If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I could swim, then I would have told you "YES!" without any hesitation.

My older sisters and I would go to the pool every summer with my dad or grandparents and we would "swim" for hours. Being the youngest of three, and always wanting to do what the big kids were doing, I was the infamous and fearless toddler who would jump into the pool at the first available opportunity. Luckily, my dad was very keen to my game and would jump in seconds after me (sometimes fully clothed), retrieve me and safely place me back on the step or deck of the pool.

Just as he had done with my two sisters, he began to teach me water safety skills without me even knowing it. He showed me how to hold my breath when I jumped into the pool where he was waiting to assist me. He taught me to relax while on my back, so I could learn to float. And, he eventually encouraged me to doggie paddle to him while he would say, "swim to me!" and would slowly step back as I worked hard to reach him. 

Fast forward to the summer of 2014.


I had already been working at HSC for a handful of years. I spent lots of time watching children of all ages not only experience their first swim class, but learn to swim proficiently in more than one stroke. It was very impressive!

I worked in the office and, on a daily basis, I learned more and more about the basics of swimming. I spoke to parents daily about the importance of water safety, their children’s swim skills, and the goals they wanted them to accomplish next. I felt like I knew quite a bit about it all, but in reality, there was still so much more to learn (and experience) about the world of swimming. 

Despite working at a swim school, I developed a knack for running (instead of swimming) over the years. And, as a result, became an active member in my local running community. I completed various short distance races as well as two full marathons and one ultramarathon (50k).

Friends who had encouraged me to complete my first marathon began to encourage me to complete my first triathlon. Eeeeeek! It was a local sprint triathlon, which involved a short (read: intimidating) 300-meter pool swim. Before I knew it, a friend had signed me up for the race with just two weeks' notice.


Not only did I need to be able to finish a 300-meter swim, but I also needed to find a bike. Luckily, my run partner at the time let me borrow a spare bike. With his help and that of a few other friends, we started a flash training that consisted of a few trips to the local aquatic center and some bike rides through the neighborhood. 

Race day arrived and I was as ready as I was going to be with two weeks of training under my belt. The 10-mile bike ride and 3-mile run were a piece of cake. The 300-meter swim was not so easy…or so spectacular. I would not be lying to you if I said that I "swam" almost the entire 300 meters on my back, kicking until I got to the end.

A wave of relief washed over me as I crawled out of the pool and ran to the bike transition. It was not until after the race that I realized how incredibly embarrassing it was to have done almost the full swim on my back (and kicking no less!) at a local triathlon. Here I was in my twenties working at a swim school and I could not complete a mere 300-meter swim.

If you had asked me at that moment if I could swim, then I would certainly have told you, "No!"

It was at that moment that I became determined to do better in the pool and explore the many opportunities swimming had to offer – to myself and to others. 

In the weeks to follow, I discovered a newfound respect for the students at HSC who were conquering their fears, gaining comfort in the water and advancing their skills from floating to successfully being able to swim all four strokes with confidence in local swim meets.


I began asking questions and researched articles and videos on stroke technique. I started swimming in the outdoor pool at work as I tried to increase my knowledge of swimming and improve my own skills in the water. This process opened my eyes to the numerous opportunities that swimming has to offer.

Water safety is a must for everyone, regardless of age or skill level.

Since setting my goal to learn more about swimming, I have completed a handful of triathlons, including an Olympic distance triathlon just three months after my first. In this race, the swim was in open water and was a distance five times longer than that of my first race. I have also completed two Half Ironman races.


Throughout my journey, I have also assisted in the training of some of the youth athletes, some of whom are prior HSC students. They began their swim journey just as many HSC students have by learning how to blow bubbles and float on their backs. With continued swim lessons, practice and dedication, they eventually advanced to learning all four strokes, competed on summer swim teams and are now chasing goals with their school and year-round swim teams. I have truly enjoyed working with them!

For athletes, swimming is a great method of cross training.

It is a sport that gives you a full body workout and strengthens your arms, legs and core simultaneously. Training in the pool can help prevent injury during other activities by improving muscular imbalances, too. Since it is low impact, swimming can be helpful when resuming exercise following an injury without adding stress on joints or muscles. Cardiovascular health can also improve with consistent swimming as the heart and lungs get a workout as well. You become more aware of your breathing during swimming without the wear and tear on your body from other activities such as running. Swimming has wonderful health benefits for everyone!

hsc-erin-runningWhile I’ve completed many races to date, I know that this is still the beginning of my journey as a triathlete. Running will always be my first love, but swimming has found its way to my heart, too.

So, go ahead and ask me… "Hey, Erin! Can you swim?"

And, without an ounce of hesitation, my answer will be… "YES!"

Written by Erin Lukes, Office Manager of Houston Swim Club Sharpstown

Jan 6, 2020
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